'Kings of the Dance' in New York City: Showcase for ballet's male stars
Author: Robert Johnson
Date: February 17, 2010
Publisher: The Star-Ledger
Who wouldn’t rather be king? Most guys wouldn’t mind the title, if they didn’t have to sit on a throne. Think of Tarzan beating his chest as "King of the Jungle," and the old-fashioned moniker still has a certain ring to it.
David Hallberg performs Frederick Ashton's "Dance of the Blessed Spirits.''
The prestige factor is definitely in play in "Kings of the Dance," the muscular showcase featuring some of today’s top male ballet stars, which returns to New York City Center this weekend presented by Ardani Artists. The touring program debuted in 2006.
Despite the regular appearance of outstanding men in ballet history, there is no word like "ballerina" to honor the fierce athletic prowess of the male dancer at the pinnacle of his career. The most magnificent specimens of this breed are simply
So now we have "the Kings," an elite brotherhood that includes American Ballet Theatre’s José Manuel Carreño, Marcelo Gomes and David Hallberg, and the Bolshoi Ballet’s Nikolay Tsiskaridze. New York City Ballet has contributed Joaquín De Luzm, and Canada sent Guillaume Côté. Representing Ukraine will be Denis Matvienko. With American contemporary dancer Desmond Richardson appearing as a guest monarch, clearly we’re not talking paper crowns and hamburger royalty.
Kings they may be, but even these stars don’t necessarily get to choose what they dance at home. Huge companies like ABT and the Bolshoi have needs that make a king’s life one of self-sacrifice — not to mention service to his queens. In "The Kings of Dance," however, a king can stretch out comfortably, feeling his royal prerogatives restored.
"The top priority for me in this project is the possibility to perform new ballets," says Tsiskaridze, who has had the solo "Fallen Angel" choreographed for him by Boris Eifman. "It’s the repertoire," Hallberg concurs. "It’s a chance to do something different from what I’m given at ABT." For the "Kings" program, Hallberg has revived the "Dance of the Blessed Spirits," a solo by the great ballet master Frederick Ashton.
At a power summit like this one, diplomacy is naturally a must. Each king has his own solo to perform, in a lineup that also includes Leonid Jacobson’s "Vestris," and new works by emerging choreographers David Fernandez and Adam Hougland. The kings dance together as an all-star team in Christopher Wheeldon’s "For 4" and in Nacho Duato’s "Remanso," and they pair off in a duet, an intense study in psychological domination excerpted from Roland Petit’s ballet "Proust ou les Intermittances du Coeur."
The solos vary widely in style and content. Tsiskaridze says he asked Eifman to create "Fallen Angel" in response to a famous series of "Demon" paintings by Russian artist Mikhail Vrubel. The dance has its own theme, however, showing the angel at a stage midway between light and darkness. "Every person, sooner or later, faces the need to make a choice" between good and evil, Tsiskaridze says.
According to Hallberg, the "Dance of the Blessed Spirits" is a study in pure movement. "It’s very atmospheric," Hallberg says describing Ashton’s neoclassical ballet, which eschews bravura in favor of lyricism. As the solo progresses, Hallberg says the dancer must imbue its extended lines with his forceful presence.
While it may feel good to be king for a day, Tsiskaridze is the only one of the original stars still touring with this program. He takes a philosophical attitude. "The King is Dead, Long Live the King!" the Russian star remarks. "Sooner or later, each new king will be succeeded by the next one."